Mary Stuart (1542-1587) – or Mary, Queen of Scots as she is commonly known – has long been a source of fascination, in Scotland and beyond. She has been the subject of numerous paintings, plays, books and films – and no wonder, when her biography reads like a Gothic novel. Her tragic tale includes three doomed marriages, alleged adultery, murder, imprisonment and execution. While many of the sordid details of her life and death are well-documented, others still are shrouded in mystery and obscured by centuries of rumor, romance and fantasy. This exhibition looks at both the real historical figure and the romantic cultural icon.
The diverse range of Mary-related materials you will see, including historic manuscripts, paintings, needlework and books, belong to the Bute Collection, one of the foremost private collections of art and artefacts in the UK. Many of the items were acquired in the early twentieth century by the Scottish history enthusiast John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute. However, some of the acquisitions date as far back as the late eighteenth century, indicating that Mary, Queen of Scots has been a Bute family interest for nearly three hundred years. Notably, as descendents of Robert II, the Crichton-Stuarts of Bute are, in fact, distant relatives of the Queen herself.